23 April, 2012

Corvair road trip: The smell of pine, how to roll-start your car, and Bend on a budget

Somewhere in the desert of Oregon, at some point before the Lakeview Incident, our odometer turned 14,000 miles. It turned 15,000 as we puttered out of Bandon on Hwy 42, and I cannot think of a better way to put miles on a car than a drive up to Crater Lake. Except for maybe a drive through Yellowstone, but that is a story for a different time.

Camping at Diamond Lake c. 1995
Smell is a strong trigger of memory. I have a candle that reminds me of my college dorm, some lotion that reminds me of living in Beijing, a fishy backpack that will always and forever bring back that bus ride in Cambodia (talk about a story for a different time!). I tell you, though, that there is nothing in the world quite like the smell of a Northwest pine forest. Except for maybe a sagebrush plain… I might be slightly biased having grown up camping in the forests of Oregon and Idaho, but the smell of pine always transports me to a better place.

I was transported to just such a place as we entered the Umpqua National Forest on Hwy 138. Oh, what glorious air, so fresh and clean, dry and fragrant—all the things I love from my past, and all the things air in Southeast Asia is not.

Not much could have spoiled my piney ecstasy. However, there was a constant niggling in the back of our minds that the increasing inland heat along with the steady climb up to Crater Lake would cause our little car to balk. 
Diamond Lake
Mt. Thielsen
Sure enough, at a rest stop near Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielsen, we almost did not get it started again. But then it did start. So we drove straight through to the first viewpoint at Crater Lake.
Drive to the rim
I think it is difficult not to be impressed by Crater Lake.  It still impresses me, though I am probably not the best barometer for such things. MHH, on the other hand, is more difficult to impress, but I knew he would love it, which he did. I even thought I had better warn him not to wreck the car as he pulled up to the rim, which he did not.
MHH takes in the beauty
I just had to add this one of my
grandparents at Crater Lake 
After the requisite exclaiming and excessive snapping of photos, we decided to make a move for the visitor center, but the Corvair would have none of it and continued having none of it until I really felt quite awkward for all the people looking and snickering at the silly couple with the old car that would not start.

MHH poked around under the hood. Passing men offered their observations (vapor lock, huh?) and random bits of advice. The people parked next to us offered a jump.

The Corvair can't tear itself away from the crater
But the Yellow Bomb simply refused to start. It had a premium view of Crater Lake, and it wanted to stay. Lovely though it was, we did not want to stay, so our final and fairly brilliant plan was to ditch the visitor center, get the car rolling back down the road toward the north entrance, achieve a speed of 20-25mph, and hope that the owner’s manual was right about being able to push-start at speeds of 20-25mph.

I would like to talk momentarily about the expectation I had on first reading the term ‘push-start’ in the context of starting the Corvair. My expectation was that a reasonable number of average people on an average road would be able to push a Corvair to the eventual end of a started car. As you might recall from the Lakeview Incident, in which two people pushing a Corvair on a flat road were most definitely not able to achieve a ‘push-start’, my reasonable and average expectation turned out to be very inaccurate. I dearly hoped that a ‘roll-start down an 8,000 foot mountain’ would be more successful.

If you are the people who very graciously attempted jump-starting a yellow Corvair, helped get that Corvair rolling down Mount Mazama, and then followed in your own car that very same Covair as it coasted in neutral until the occupants joyously waved and honked and gave you enthusiastic thumbs up, to you we are ever so thankful—the plan worked!

Then, not wanting to risk any more funny business, we drove straight to Bend where we ate burgers and used a monstrosity called a phone book to find a room for the night.

Turns out that trying to find mid-range lodgings at late notice on a summer evening in Bend is very difficult, so when we found one remaining room at Budget Inn for $27.50, we hesitated only slightly to consider what we might get for that price before we took it. I will not be writing a five star review about it anytime soon, but we left in good health with our car intact, so I consider it money well spent, or maybe money well saved.

Our road trip came full circle when we hit Burns again on Hwy 20. The Corvair had been running perfectly for a full day. We were happily exhausted. Nampa was only a few more miles down the road, and all I could think was, ‘When is the next road trip?’

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